Raphael Mills Warner
2nd-year M.Div. student
Student Body President
Why did you decide to become a spiritual leader?
It’s been a long journey to this point. I’ve always in some way felt the call to ministry. However, the major catalyst was when I did a project where I visited 52 religions in one year. At the end of the project, the call was there. I realized this was what I wanted with my life, and Starr King was my first choice of all of the schools I looked at.
Why did you choose to study at Starr King School for the Ministry?
I liked the pedagogy of Starr King. I like that it is not just Unitarian Universalist, but also multireligious. I also liked the openness of the curriculum, so I could basically tailor my education the way I needed it to be.
What is your most meaningful or memorable experience at Starr King?
The most meaningful experience I have had at Starr King was when a number of students from both Starr King and our neighboring school, Pacific School of Religion, responded to a clergy call to go to Standing Rock. Prior to sending them off, I organized a blessing where I got the community together and we anointed them with oil and gave them blessed stoles to take to Standing Rock. There was just this powerful energy in the room, and it was kind of the moment I considered myself fully becoming a minister. There was something in me that changed.
Starr King is a great place. I’ve never felt more at home, more challenged. I love the community here, particularly the faculty and staff, as well as the students. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve learned as much from being part of this community as I have in classes. It’s really enriched my life being at this school.
Can you tell us a little about the work you have been involved in outside of Starr King?
Prior to coming to the Starr King, I spent a lot of time exploring religious traditions. I had a moment where I realized that I had studied a lot about various religions, but that I hadn’t visited them. So, for my New Year’s resolution I chose to do a project where I visited 52 religious traditions. That experience opened up a big world to me and inspired me to do more multireligious work.
While doing field education in Utah last summer, I helped forge relationships between the Unitarian Universalist church in my hometown of Ogden and the local Islamic community. This involved talking with the imam, inviting him to speak at events, and taking members of the congregation to the local mosque for iftar meals.
I’ve also done a lot of work providing pastoral care to people who are in the process of leaving the Mormon Church of my childhood, or helping them to reconcile their beliefs with the Church.
What do you plan to do with your Starr King education moving forward?
Right now, I’m planning on going into congregational ministry for a while and serving at a parish. I would eventually like to use that experience to help people who are moving out of their religious traditions, particularly those who are escaping polygamous cults in my home state of Utah.
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